[JURIST] Scotland announced a moratorium on the granting of permits for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking, on Wednesday amid environmental and health concerns. Energy minister Fergus Ewing [official website] told the Scottish parliament [statement] that the moratorium will give the government time to investigate the effects of the controversial drilling technique. The announcement puts a dent into British Prime Minister David Cameron’s [official website] shale gas ambitions to promote growth in the North Sea’s oil and gas production. The Scottish government will engage in a public consultation, so that all interested parties and members of the public can give their input. Friends of the Earth Scotland [advocacy website], led by Dr. Richard Dixon, applauded the decision and expressed hope that a full investigation into the health and environmental effects of fracking will lead to a complete ban on the drilling technique, as it did in Ireland, France and New York State, among other countries and regions. Public opposition against fracking in Scotland has increased dramatically, especially in areas where fracking companies conduct the drilling. Supporters of unconventional oil and gas extraction worry about Scotland’s economic and energy security.
Hydraulic fracking [JURIST backgrounder] is a process by which chemicals and water are blasted deep underground to release trapped gas in rock. Hydraulic fracturing is a highly debated topic [JURIST report] in regions where recent Marcellus shale gas developments have been associated with toxic water pollution. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his administration said this month that they will block hydraulic fracturing across the state [JURIST report]. The New York State Assembly approved a two-year ban [JURIST report] on fracking in 2013. The measure postponed any potential fracking until May 15, 2015, by which time a “comprehensive health impact assessment” could be conducted to identify potential public health impacts that may result from the process. The ban represented a continuation of a previous ban on fracking that had been in place in the state since 2008. Also in 2013, JURIST guest columnist Nicolas Parke debunked rumors [JURIST op-ed] around fracking. In 2012 Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and the Environmental Protection Agency all took regulatory, legislative and judicial steps towards restricting hydraulic fracturing [JURIST report] for fear of environmental and public health concerns.